Today’s feature is a weird, mostly-forgotten movie that attempted to blend, mob comedy, a buddy road trip formula, and a talking marsupial: Kangaroo Jack.
The plot of Kangaroo Jack is summarized on IMDb as follows:
Two childhood friends, a New York hairstylist and a would-be musician, get caught up with the mob and are forced to deliver $50,000 to Australia, but things go haywire when the money is lost to a wild kangaroo.
Kangaroo Jack had three credited writers: Steve Bing (Missing In Action, Missing In Action 2), Scott Rosenberg (Con Air, High Fidelity), and Barry O’Brien (Hannah Montana, CSI: Miami).
The film was directed by David McNally, whose only other feature directorial credit to date is 2000’s Coyote Ugly.
The cast of Kangaroo Jack includes Michael Shannon (Man of Steel, Bug, Boardwalk Empire), Christopher Walken (King of New York, The Deer Hunter, The Dead Zone), Dyan Cannon (Caddyshack II), Estella Warren (Driven, The Cooler), Marton Csokas (Timeline, Aeon Flux), Anthony Anderson (Scream 4), and Jerry O’Connell (Jerry Maguire, Scream 2).
The cinematographer for the movie was Peter Menzies Jr., who also shot The 13th Warrior, Die Hard with a Vengeance, Four Brothers, and Gods of Egypt, among others.
Kangaroo Jack ultimately had three credited editors: John Murray (Drop Dead Diva, Entourage), Jim May (Goosebumps, Van Helsing, Cowboys & Aliens), and William Goldenberg (Heat, Gone Baby Gone, Argo, National Treasure).
Jerry Bruckheimer, best known for producing movies like Top Gun, Beverly Hills Cop, Thief, Bad Boys, Con Air, The Rock, and Armageddon, was a key producer for Kangaroo Jack. The movie was even made under the banner of his production company, Jerry Bruckheimer Films.
The music for Kangaroo Jack was provided by Trevor Rabin, whose other film credits include Torque, Hot Rod, Deep Blue Sea, Con Air, and 12 Rounds.
Kangaroo Jack received an animated sequel, Kangaroo Jack: G’Day USA!, which went direct to DVD in 2004. This sequel was more in line with the film’s advertising campaign: it was focused on the kangaroo’s shenanigans, and lost all of the adult humor and themes of its predecessor.
Kangaroo Jack astoundingly only received one Golden Raspberry nomination, which was for Christopher Walken’s supporting performance. Interestingly, even that was only co-nominated with Walken’s role in Gigli, which was likely the true reason for the recognition.
Kangaroo Jack wasn’t without its victories, however, At the annual MTV movie awards, Kangaroo Jack won the prestigious Blimp Award for “Favorite Fart In A Movie.”
Inspired by the marketing campaign of Snow Dogs, the producers of Kangaroo Jack decided to focus their marketing efforts for the film around a brief hallucination sequence involving a talking kangaroo, despite the fact that the movie’s plot had nothing to do with talking animals. Initially, the movie’s title was Down and Under, and it was intended to be a hybrid of a mob comedy and a road trip movie. Once the movie was edited together, however, the producers realized that it was an absolute mess, and panicked over what looked to be a bomb. Ultimately, the studio put up the cash to shoot additional footage and create CGI kangaroo sequences, so that the film could be recut and marketed effectively as an animal feature.
Somewhat surprisingly, this deceptive advertising tactic worked, at least to a point. On a production budget that ultimately reached $60 million, the film managed to take in $88.9 million over its lifetime theatrical run. However, outside of incredibly young children, nearly everyone hated the movie. Currently, it holds a 4.4/10 IMDb user rating, along with Rotten Tomatoes scores of 8% from critics and 28% from audiences.
Kangaroo Jack is by no means a good movie. In fact, it is an unequivocally terrible movie. The CGI that was intended to salvage it at the time now looks incredibly dated. The humor ranges from dully crass to gay-panic offensive. The chemistry between the players, particularly the leads, is utterly nonexistent.
However, there are two good things about this movie: Christopher Walken and Michael Shannon. For reasons I will never fully understand, both of these men decided to put themselves into the zone for this movie.
Shannon, doing what he does best, is goddamn bone-chilling, even despite being given the role of a mustache-twirling cartoon. At this point, I’m convinced that Shannon could elevate even Snidely Whiplash into a icy-veined cinematic terror.
Walken, on the other hand, manages to turn what could have been hack-y comedic dialogue into something that is actually worth a laugh. His character, a mob boss, is basically a cardboard cutout, except for the fact that he is trying to expand his vocabulary, and is prone to malapropisms as a result. In the hands of just about anyone else, there is no way that ritualistically reciting the definition of “amorphous” into a recorder, or misusing the term “plethora” in place of “anathema,” could be funny. Walken, however, finds a way to make that shit work, at least in some small way.
There are a couple of ephemeral moments in Kangaroo Jack where only Walken and Shannon are on screen. If I were to come across a genie’s bottle right now, I might just waste that precious first wish on making this movie about them, and thus extending these precious moments of respite from the unrelenting parade of farts that is the rest of this movie.
Kangaroo Jack is a mess, and I can’t recommend that anyone go back to give it a second glance. It has been forgotten for a reason. If you happen to be one of the people who has fond memories of this from your childhood, I first highly recommend that you apologize to your parents and/or guardians, and then advise locking this movie up in a dusty guest room closet of your memory palace.